Youth in Revolt

2010-06-22 14:09
Youth in Revolt

What it's about:

Sixteen-year-old Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) is a virgin. It's a fact that's really getting him down. He meets the girl of his dreams, Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday) while on vacation with his trashy mom Estelle (Jean Smart) and her dodgy boyfriend Jerry (Zach Galifianakis). Sheeni believes that the only way she and Nick can be together is if he becomes a bad boy, and so the awkward teenager invents a cooler alter ego named Francois Dillinger – a Frenchman who smokes, wears an ascot and is very, very bad.

What we thought:

Youth in Revolt (or 'Revolting Youth', if you're old enough to be a parent of a teenager) is a funny yet increasingly frustrating exercise in telling us what we already know – teenage boys have not a clue about women. We've seen Michael Cera (so adorably lost in a sea of idiots in the seminal comedy series Arrested Development) play this character countless times before: the awkward geek with an almost paralysing intellectualism. It's there in George Michael, in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and peaking through in his daddy-to-be character in Juno. Even when he does get the girl in the end, it feels like a consolation prize. There's something about him that suggests he would be happier on his own, maybe it's just that face. It is just begging to be mothered.

Although he gets to effectively play two characters here, there is little to distinguish Cera's Nick Twisp and Francois Dillinger, beyond the cosmetic. Francois has blue eyes, a deeper, more obnoxious voice and says he is an experienced lover. Through him Nick sets off a series of catastrophes, setting a trailer alight and causing a restaurant to explode, breaking into Sheeni's dormitory at her all-girl boarding school and becoming a hapless menace to society.

Adapted from C.D. Payne's series of novels of the same name, the movie gets perilously caught up in its frenzied, convoluted plot and loses much of its charm and humour, though it's hard to dislike the colourful cast of characters. Zach Galifianakis is, as you can guess, a standout as Nick's deadbeat would-be stepfather but is underused, as is a wonderfully entertaining Steve Buscemi as Nick's put-upon father. It's Fred Willard, though, who gets the best scene as Mr Ferguson, Nick's liberal neighbour, who fights for the rights of illegal immigrants in his spare time and memorably trips out on mushrooms, and somehow worming his way into audience's hearts with his do-good naïveté.

Portia Doubleday is quite a find as the dangerously seductive Sheeni, her knowing come-ons playing right into Nick's need for love and attention. She's no Juno MacGruff, that's for sure. She's almost just as neurotic and pretentious as Nick, (they both adore Frank Sinatra, while she is obsessed with anything French) and their quirky little romance becomes something a little darker, and progressively mean-spirited. 

The self-satisfied tone of the teen characters may start to grate after awhile, and Cera really should find another schtick. There's only so much virginity vanquishing he can do before it gets old.
He wasn't a rebel until he found his cause.

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